It’s a game show. With letters and puzzles and a colorful spinning wheel full of monetary values and prizes. But to my family, it’s really so much more! To us, Wheel of Fortune is an amazing representation of God’s providence in our lives. Really, it is! Hopefully you have a minute – it’s not my shortest story. (But I’ll attempt to unfold this tale as succinctly as possible…)
The Story Begins…
Being a lover of mind games (the good kind!) and word puzzles, my husband and I have always enjoyed Wheel of Fortune. While it’s not something we watch every night, we appreciate the friendly competition of puzzle solving.
Upon graduating from medical school, Chris was interested in a year-long sports medicine fellowship. After interviewing at several places around the country, we had narrowed down the list to Wake Forest and the University of South Carolina. Both had fantastic programs and great appeal for various reasons, but we were a little unsure, mostly because it was going to be the first time we were moving away from our families in Illinois. We had prayed for wisdom and guidance, even joking that it would be great if God could just call and leave a message on our answering machine with where we should go.
And then — the very night before rank lists were due, the “On the Map” puzzle on Wheel of Fortune was: Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Gah – it still gives me chills writing that!
While I hope it’s not sacrilegious to think that God sends messages through Wheel of Fortune puzzles, I am certain that was undoubtedly part of His divine plan.
We spent an unbelievably fantastic year in North Carolina, soaking in as much as we could – mountains, beaches, cultural fun, and of course, many sporting events, but moved back to Illinois to resume our “regular life” as we had expected.
The Story Continues…
Fast forward four years later… (As if that wasn’t enough.. yes, the story does go on!)
In a surprising turn of events, after much prayer (and more Wheel-watching, just in case), Chris accepted a faculty position with the sports medicine department back at Wake Forest. We bought some land in the country, added our second son to the family, and found our new normal in North Carolina again.
Now, a little background: Our oldest son has loved Wheel of Fortune since, gosh, before he was 2. (I’ll post a video showing his excitement for the show on the EFF Facebook page). So when we heard the Wheelmobile was coming to Winston-Salem, we thought it would be cool for him to get his picture taken in front of the giant yellow RV with Pat and Vanna’s picture on the side. Little did we know, how the events of that day would transpire!
While we weren’t really planning on trying to get on the show, it seemed like good entertainment so we decided to stick around for a bit. Everyone placed their information cards in a rolling bin and they randomly selected groups of five people at a time to play the game. The focus was on stage presence and enthusiasm, not just your ability to solve a puzzle. I think they even had people in the RV watching via video and taking notes in a creepy sort of way…
And wouldn’t you know it, my husband’s name was drawn in the third group (out of probably 500 names!) And, if you know my husband at all, you know he is not lacking in the enthusiastic personality category. Once on stage, you had to introduce yourself with the usual type of information and then share something that would make you stand out or make them want to put you on the show.
Umm… does the fact that we moved to North Carolina partially because of a Wheel of Fortune puzzle seem unique? Probably!
The Story Takes a Twist…
Now, here’s where God dropped a bombshell into the story again. I had taken some pictures when we first got there and then put my phone in the van for the rest of this incredibly fun, but kind of ridiculous afternoon. Upon returning to the van, I saw my phone was overflowing with posts from friends who were huddled in church bathrooms singing Jesus Loves Me and wondering if their family members or houses had been harmed by the F4 tornado that just destroyed our former home town of Washington, IL.
Nothing like the sobering news of a devastating natural disaster to change the mood of a silly game show afternoon. Somewhat in jest (because neither of us thought it would actually happen), we said that if he won money, we would use it to make some significant donations to the Tornado Relief efforts.
The Process of Becoming a Contestant…
And sure enough, the story does continue… (I share this part mostly because it was just really interesting to realize how the process actually works!)
After three months of waiting, he received an email inviting him to the preliminary try-outs, where his puzzle-solving skills were very much put to the test. As in – here’s a quiz with 20 (partially filled-in) puzzles to solve in 5 minutes – Go!
Whittling down the contestant field to the top 15, he made the cut to the next round of auditions, winning two of the three puzzles he competed in. And then, finally, exactly a year ago this month, he received the letter in the mail inviting him to be a contestant on the real show! Policy is that it could be up to 12 months though before you’re given a taping date, and they may only give you three weeks advance notice to fly out to Los Angeles.
Thankfully he was given a date almost immediately (and it was only three weeks later!) I’ll spare you all of the details of the trip and the show itself – but it was crazy-amazing! The best part, however, was that it was for “Father’s Day” week, and contestants were asked to submit a photo of them with their children. Hayden couldn’t go with us because audience members were required to be older than 8 years old, but at least he did get his picture on his nationally-televised, favorite TV show!
Chris did win some money (and a $1000 Dick’s Sporting Goods card – thank you for the Bosu and the super-nice yoga mat!). We went to Santa Monica pier, hiked to see the Hollywood sign, experienced an earthquake, and my West-coast cousins met us there for the weekend as well!
Wheel of Fortune may be a funny way of recognizing God’s providence in your life. But from our initial move to the donations we made with the winnings from the show, this was a carefully-orchestrated, chance of a lifetime experience, no doubt!
Feel free to comment below with any questions you have. Like I said, I was just trying to keep the story as succinct as I could. I’m free from the sworn secrecy now (as we risked forfeiting any winnings if we talked about the details of the show before the air date last June.)
We will definitely never be able to watch Wheel of Fortune the same way again!
Now, I’m certain Jeremiah was not referring to Wheel of Fortune in any way, but I can’t help but smile when I read,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Wherever the roads in your life are leading you, be reassured that Jesus is directing the traffic!